By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Some people order only meat because they fear other dishes won't fill them up. These folks evidently haven't tried Jackson's thick, steaklike planks of salmon or sea bass. The salmon was saddled with raw, unseasoned, julienned zucchini and yellow squash (not the best choices for topping fish, as they add very little in the way of flavor, color, or texture) and baked in crackly phyllo dough that was slightly overcooked. Consider the phyllo and squash, collectively, as an imperfect wrapping designed only to seal in the succulence of an otherwise flawlessly prepared piece of salmon. The pan-roasted Chilean sea bass ($17) didn't need a wrapper. It was juicy, and its translucent flakes were accented with fresh thyme. Sitting atop a soothing white bean puree, it was also surrounded by swirls of basil and red pepper oils. Other enticing seafood items include herb-encrusted sea scallops in a truffle meuniere sauce, peppercorn-encrusted tuna served over balsamic-braised spinach, and olive and tarragon breaded halibut in a garlic and tomato broth. The halibut apparently sounded as good to earlier diners as it did to us; it was sold out by 8 p.m.
Entrees are a la carte, so for a full meal you'll want to select from the ten side dishes that range from simple (baked potato, asparagus with hollandaise) to sublime (wild mushroom risotto, creamy roast-garlic mashed potatoes). Make sure to order the sweet potato hash, which contained more corn than tuber but was imbued with a sultry smoked-bacon flavor that earned it the highest of accolades at our table. Fragile wisps of deep-fried spinach leaves, a dish made famous by China Grill and now popping up on local menus, are enjoyable as a novelty the first time you try them. After that you may find, as I did, that although they are served crisp and greaseless, the taste of oil overwhelms the fresh green flavor of the spinach.
Desserts were overwhelming, too. The chocolate pecan pie was a sugary-enough treat without being bathed in caramel sauce, and the Snickers terrine, with a candy-bar base topped with layers of light and dark chocolate ganache, also could have done without saucing. Even the chocolate souffle ($9.50), which was exceptional, was accompanied by chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and a white-and-dark-chocolate-striped straw. I guess overwrought desserts are the price you pay when dining in a restaurant that tries so hard to please its customers.
I think Brillat-Savarin would have approved of Jackson's Four Fifty. As for those who see 1999 as a warm-up act for impending millennial doom, I suggest they make their New Year's Eve reservations for Jackson's right away. After all, as long as they're under its roof, they'll be well cared for.
Jackson's Four Fifty, 450 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-522-4450. Dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday till 11 p.m.
Rack of pork
Pan-roasted Chilean sea bass